In a world where crimes against women and queer folk continue to rise, and conversations around sex are still surrounded by shame and guilt, India’s foremost sex educator Leeza Mangaldas answers all the questions we’ve been too afraid to ask. By Khushi Arora
Biology classes interspersed with awkward glances, scandalous rumours whispered on the back benches, E.L. James book copies wrapped in newspapers, struggles to find the right website, or just discovering the thrill of it in all our firsts—most of us in India hardly ever come across a safe one-stop resource for sex education while growing up. All that’s fed to us are scraps of information from here and there, which all somehow manifest into the realisation that something’s wrong with us. Now, India’s award-winning sex educator, Leeza Mangaldas, has finally put all the pieces together in her debut book, The Sex Book: A Joyful Journey of Self-Discovery.
“Comprehensive sex education that is pleasure and queer inclusive is central to greater gender equality, improved sexual and reproductive health, and ending sexual and gender-based violence.”— Leeza Mangaldas
With an introductory glossary and an elaborate yet easy-to-read description of the male and female anatomy, Leeza begins her book by quickly filling in all the quintessential biological details many of us might have flipped through in school. I mean, did you know that we pee and menstruate from separate holes? And that 1.7 percent of the global population is born intersex? I certainly didn’t! Although this section, titled ‘The Body: Your Genitals Are Normal’, continues for at least a hundred pages, I appreciate the fact that the author didn’t assume the reader’s knowledge of or access to such details. “Our genitals are as diverse as our faces,” Leeza writes, as she dispels myths about broken hymens, and answers popular questions such as “Does size matter?” with witty assertions on pleasure: “Don’t worry so much about penis size. Dil bada hona chahiye bas. (A big heart is all that matters.)”
Now on to the pivotal part. I think the second section, ‘Sex: What You Need To Know Long Before You Get Naked’, and the third one, ‘Pleasure: Everyone Deserves It!’, are boons for people who suffer from low self-esteem or body image issues. I won’t go so far as to say that The Sex Book could be their real-life Jean Milburn (if you haven’t watched Sex Education on Netflix, you must), but reading it feels like touching upon all-things-sex in a single non-judgmental therapy session.
From contraception, abortion, and consent, to foreplay, sex toys, and fetishes, Leeza eases her readers into every dimension of sex-education and normalises having a deeper dialogue around these topics. Moreover, the book is queer-friendly and accompanied by unambiguous illustrations. The delicate way in which she handles the blurry line around consent and the shame associated with certain sexual acts such as pegging is especially commendable. And you know it’s safe pleasure all the way when she cites ethical porn websites and even tells us how to make DIY dental dams!
All in all, it won’t be wrong to say that we might just have the first essential reading in our sex-education curriculum.
Leeza Mangaldas established her sex-education platforms on Youtube and Instagram in 2017, and also hosts the Spotify exclusive ‘The Sex Podcast’ in Hindi. She is a UN Women Ally and has won several awards for her work. Come over to Kunzum GK2 on 20th November, 5PM, to meet India’s foremost sex-educator and grab a signed copy of her first book — click here for more details!